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GOBER, Robert, ARTISTS 1900 onwards/ MAIN ART



My emotional response to Robert Gober's sculptures is good and spontaneous.

It relates to the appearance of things. His promotion of sanitation refers to Marcel Duchamp; although Gober's The Subconscious Sink is an original design, it has less to do with surprise than plausibility. Gober's objects look like ready-mades or industrially manufactured products but the porous material with which his washbasin is formed denies the object its assumed purpose. The same is true of the cross structure ion his X-playpen, 1987. The theoretical transformation of the familiar into a sober recollection of it is an ingenious formula.

His strategy originated partly from Minimal art; this association Gober strengthens by making identical elements into a serial order. Since 1980 he has produced about fifty interpretations of The Sink, The Silly Sink, The Cut-Off Sink, The Sad Sink, The Basinless Sinks, etc. Minimalist influence too is felt in the concept behind his sculptures. His conceptual starting point is the already discovered, (and in each work there is a direct knowledge of ), and relation with, Minimalist art. Ascending Sink, 1985,  reinterprets Donald Judd's Untitled from the 1960s, in which the space between identical elements placed one above the other is reapplied to the entire piece in its context with the room. Instead of Judd's neutral forms, Gober creates, by means of connotive elements, a world of memories and emotions.  In spite of a formal regard for Minimal Art, I think that Gober wants to ensure that he gets across the emotionalism of daily life through warmth and touch. He speaks of 'taking the forms of a more minimal vocabulary and infusing them with an emotional, biographical, hallucinatory quality.' Many of his objects are based on childhood memories: a toy box, a crib, a playpen or a child's bed which show the imprint of a body. These pictures can be seen as witnesses of the irrevocable loss of the world of childhood. Gober has accepted the (dis)advantage that we cannot be surprised, but he tilts domestic familiarity towards his own subtle limits and gives the commonplace a new identity.

In 1988 Robert Gober showed work at the Boymans exhibition 'Het Meubel verbeelds.' In 1989 he exhibited at the 'Horn of Plenty' in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. This large show in Rotterdam is the first one-man exhibition Europe.

Timothy Foster

First published in Art Monthly, 1990